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Council ‘should have launched empty homes crackdown earlier’

10 Jan 2024 3 minute read
Councillor Lindsay Whittle

Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter

Measures to tackle long-term empty homes in a Welsh borough could have been more effective if the council had “grasped the nettle earlier”, the opposition leader has claimed.

Lindsay Whittle, who leads the Plaid Cymru group in the Caerphilly Council chamber, welcomed the council’s recent work to bring empty homes back into use, but said his party had been “highlighting this issue for many, many years”.

There are 1,008 so-called long-term empty homes across the county borough, including 131 that have stood empty for a decade or longer.

“Committed”

The council’s cabinet member for housing said the local authority was “committed” to tackling the issue, and its work had won national plaudits.

Last month, the council announced it had returned 104 properties into use last year.

Owners of long-term empty homes can apply for Welsh Government funding to help them carry out repairs and bring the properties back up to scratch.

Some 13 applications have been approved so far for homes in the Caerphilly area, in grants worth £284,000.

A further 31 applications are still in the pipeline.

And the council’s cabinet recently backed a proposal to quadruple council tax bills for properties left empty for a year or longer. That policy will soon go out for public consultation.

“Transforming lives”

Cllr Whittle said he “welcomed” news of the 104 properties being brought back into use, and the planned council tax premiums hike for owners.

“Long-term empty homes are a blight on communities and a wasted housing resource when so many people are desperate for a home for themselves and their families,” he said. “Also, perhaps the council would look at the possibility of sharing homes for single people if they can be paired successfully.”

He added: “Think how many more homes could have been brought back into beneficial use if the Caerphilly Labour administration had grasped the nettle earlier and taken the issue much more seriously.”

Cllr Whittle also suggested that returning empty properties into use “might also help the pressure for so many new-build homes on greenfield sites”.

Responding to those comments, Shayne Cook, Caerphilly Council’s cabinet member for housing, defended the local authority’s record on empty homes.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that long-term empty properties were an “unsightly blot on our communities” and “represent a wasted resource, particularly during the current national housing crisis”.

He said the council had worked “for many years” to support owners to “bring empty homes back into beneficial use”.

The council had established a dedicated Empty Properties Team, developing a “wide range of methods to address the issue of empty homes”, Cllr Cook said, adding that its work had “delivered quantifiable results” and “helped transform lives”.

“Caerphilly’s approach to addressing long-term empty properties has been cited as best practice and has seen the team win several national awards, including ‘Housing Team of the Year’ at the 2023 Welsh Housing Awards,” he added.


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

I assume those owners receiving public money to bring their empty properties back into use will have to rent out to local people at social rents?

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

High taxes will not necessarily solve the problem. Obviously if a house is ready to live in it may in that case. If there are issues needing correction then raised council tax may make matters worse. The current UK government has made it impossible to be a small landlord. Imaginative changes are needed to encourage buy to let or councils should liaise with local Housing Associations to bring these properties into use as social housing possibly by leasing the property from the owner if they won’t sell.

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